The Holocaust Historiography Project

Arthur R. Butz archive

The Hoax of the Twentieth Century

Chapter 2
The Camps

Horror Scenes and ‘Extermination’ Camps

When Germany collapsed in the spring of 1945, it was after a long allied propaganda campaign that had repeatedly claimed that people, mainly Jews, were being systematically killed in German camps. When the British captured the camp at Bergen-Belsen in northern Germany, they found a large number of unburied bodies lying around the camp.

Photographs, such as Fig. 10, and pictures of guards with unfortunate facial expressions, such as Fig. 12, were accordingly reproduced all over the world.

It is, I believe, Belsen, which has always constituted the effective, mass propaganda proof of exterminations, and even today you will find such scenes occasionally waved around as proof. In fact these scenes, repeated in varying degrees at other German camps, e.g. Dachau and Buchenwald, were much less related to extermination than the scenes at Dresden after the British-American raids of February 1945, when many, many times as many bodies were found lying around.[1] The deaths at Belsen were the result of a total loss of control, not a deliberate policy. Equivalent scenes could easily have existed in any country invaded on all sides by enemy armies, crippled by powerful strategic bombings, which had caused all sorts of shortages and chaotic conditions.

The major cause of the deaths at Belsen was a typhus epidemic. Everybody agrees that typhus was a constant menace in all German camps and eastern military operations; for this reason there was a real fear of typhus spreading throughout Germany and vigorous countermeasures were applied.[2] The typhus problem will play a most significant role in our story, because it was not merely at the end of the war that it manifested itself; the scenes at the end of the war were due to the total collapse of all measures against a disease that had plagued the German concentration camps since early in the war. The typhus was of the sort carried by the body louse, and consequently, defensive measures consisted in killing the lice, whose spread was due mainly to the constant rail traffic with the East.

Thus, all survivor literature, sincere or inventive and regardless of the type of camp involved, report the same basic procedures involved in entering a German camp: disrobe, shave hair, shower, dress in new clothes or in disinfested old clothing.[3]

At Belsen, the trouble had started in October 1944 with a breakdown of these measures. In the account of a political prisoner there:[4]

Towards the end of February 1945 my own situation changed completely.

By that time typhus had become a serious danger for the whole camp. It was the species of typhus which is transmitted by lice. At one time all the transports which arrived at Belsen had had to pass through a human laundry and this disinfection seems to have been effective enough to keep the camp free from lice until the autumn of 1944.

At the end of October a big transport had, for the first time, been admitted to the camp without being disinfected, because there had been some damage to the machinery of the shower-baths. Unfortunately the people of this transport were louse carriers, and from that day the lice gradually spread over the whole camp. […] Typhus broke out in Camp I about the end of January. At first there were only a few cases, but a month later a dozen had appeared, and it became impossible to check the disease […]

Another serious complication was that, in the final months, Belsen was considered a Krankenlager, a sick camp, so that many people entering were sick to begin with.[5] The British could not check things at once, and over a quarter of those alive when they took over the camp were to perish in the first four weeks.[6]

Despite the very effective propaganda role of the Belsen scenes, nobody acquainted with the most easily obtainable facts claims exterminations at Belsen, and the British military court which tried the commandant, SS Captain Kramer, never accused him of supervising an extermination camp at Belsen.[7] Today, in fact, exterminations at any of the concentration camps in Germany are not claimed by anybody trying to be serious; Belsen, Buchenwald, Dachau, etc. were not extermination camps. The extermination camps are all supposed to have been in occupied Poland, namely the camps referred to as Auschwitz, Belzec, Kulmhof (Chelmno), Lublin (Majdanek), Sobibor, and Treblinka.[8]

Also, exterminations of Jews were supposed to have been conducted in Russia by the Einsatzgruppen, employing either mass shooting or gasmobiles. The camps in Poland are also claimed to have employed gas chambers but, except for the case of Chelmno, stationary rather than mobile ones.

Thus, the exterminations are supposed to have taken place only at locations which had been abandoned before being captured by the Russians, not at camps which were still functioning, however disastrously, when captured by Western troops.

Although six extermination camps are claimed, one of them, Auschwitz, is the key to the whole story. It is for Auschwitz that quantities of documentary evidence are offered; there is little of any sort offered for the others. It was Auschwitz, as will be seen, that got the very special attention of Washington long before the end of the war. Thus, much of this work is necessarily concerned with the claim that at Auschwitz Jews were being exterminated during World War II.

The Camps and Their End

The subject of this book is the question of whether or not the Germans attempted to exterminate the European Jews. We are not concerned with considering in any detail the general question of alleged Nazi brutalities of all sorts or with presenting a complete picture of the functioning of German camps. However, it has been found that many people have such distorted views of these camps that, because at Auschwitz there were camps, it is difficult to separate Auschwitz at the outset and consider it in isolation from other camps. Thus, a few general words about the camps are in order. Fig. 23 presents a map (January 1938 boundaries) that shows the locations of a few of the most frequently referred to camps together with the locations of a few large cities.

There were many types of German camps, and only a fraction of them were called concentration camps. There were thirteen German concentration camps, each of them actually being a collection of neighboring camps. Only two of the six alleged extermination camps, Auschwitz and Lublin, were concentration camps. A table of many types of German camps, which includes many ordinary prisons, is given by Aronéanu, pp. 203–251, who lists about 1,400 camps, together with their locations and characters. While this table gives some idea of the scope and diversity of the German prison and camp systems, it has obvious major errors, such as giving the character of Birkenau as medical experiments. The major significance of Oranienburg, near Berlin, was that it quartered the Inspectorate of Concentration Camps, and was thus in direct communication with all concentration camps.

The typical inmate of a German concentration camp was a person being detained for punitive or security reasons. There were five major categories, and they were distinguished by colored insignia, which were associated with their uniforms:[9]

Table 5: Concentration camp inmate insignia
Color Category
Green Criminals
Red Political prisoners (mainly communists)
Pink Homosexuals
Black Asocials (vagrants, drunkards, etc.)
Purple Considered disloyal on account of religious views (mainly Jehovah’s Witnesses)

At Auschwitz and some other camps, a triangle of the appropriate color was attached to the uniform. If the prisoner was Jewish, a yellow triangle was superimposed on the first triangle, forming a star of David. This is referred to as the Auschwitz star system.

Economic conditions being what they were, the German government made every effort to use concentration camp inmates for labor. Prisoners of war (POWs) were also used to the extent that such use did not conflict with the relevant conventions, as the Germans interpreted their obligations under them. Thus, Russian POWs were used freely, because Russia did not respect the conventions. Employment of western POWs was restricted to cases where certain legalistic transformations into civilian workers were possible, as with many French POWs,[10] or some cases where the work was not considered to be ruled out by the conventions, as with some British POWs employed under conditions to be discussed.

The number of inmates in the entire German concentration camp system was about 224,000 in August 1943 and 524,000 a year later.[11] These figures include only camps referred to by the Germans as concentration camps and do not include any transit camps or camps referred to in other terms, such as the Theresienstadt ghetto or any other establishments intended for quartering families.

It is generally accurate to say that there was no such thing as a concentration camp for Jews as such, but this remark must be clarified; there are three distinct categories of Jews, which must be considered in this connection.

First, a fraction of those interned for punitive and security reasons were Jews, and under the national socialist system it was natural, in the camps, to segregate them from the Aryan inmates. Thus, sections of the camps could, in this sense, be considered for Jews. Second, specific legislation existed for the labor conscription of Jews, and many selected specifically for labor found their ways into concentration camps on this basis.

The third category was Jewish families, but the closest they got to concentration camps was in certain Durchgangslager, transit camps, which in some cases were independent camps such as Westerbork in the Netherlands[12] and others (to be mentioned) and in some cases were separate compounds, which existed at some concentration camps, e.g. Belsen, possibly Dachau,[13] and others (to be mentioned). The transit camp, as its name suggests, was intended only for temporary quartering pending transport to some other destination.

In addition to the transit camps, there were camps for some Jewish families, such as Theresienstadt in Bohemia-Moravia and others far to the East, but the most pejorative term applicable in these cases would be ghetto, not concentration camp. In addition, as we shall see, toward the end of the war, as the Russians were approaching on the eastern front, the Germans put many formerly free Jews into ghettos for security reasons.

The full story regarding the position of Jews relative to German-controlled camps of all types is rather complicated. Rather than attempt to say here exactly what that position was, the subject will be touched on at many points in the book, and the reader will be able to form a reasonably complete picture.

There is no point in attempting to discuss the entire German camp system here. For our purposes it will suffice to discuss the three that are referred to most frequently (excluding Auschwitz): Belsen, Buchenwald, and Dachau (inmate populations in August 1943: 3,000, 17,600, and 17,300 respectively[14]). Then we will pass on to preliminary discussion of the alleged extermination camp Auschwitz in Poland.


Belsen had only a very brief history. It had originally been a Wehrmacht camp for wounded POWs. In mid-1943, the SS took over half the camp for the purpose, among others, of turning it into an exchange camp, a transit camp for foreign nationals and Jews whom the Germans contemplated exchanging for Germans held abroad. Some new grounds and buildings were also added to the camp. Jews from Salonika, Greece, who possessed Spanish passports were the first Jewish arrivals (it was hoped to send them to Spain), but eventually the Dutch Jews predominated (about 5,000). A fraction of the Dutch Jews were there on a semi-permanent basis, because they numbered many of the skilled craftsmen of the essential Amsterdam diamond cutting industry, and thus, their diamond cutting operations had merely been moved to Belsen. The quarters for Jews at Belsen formed what was called the Star Camp, which was strictly separated from the rest of the camp and was essentially untouched by the typhus epidemic of the last months.[15]

The Dutch Jews were particularly heavily hit by deportations; reasons for this will be given later. It was at Belsen in March 1945 that Anne Frank is said to have perished from typhus, although the Jewish families were mostly isolated from the typhus epidemic.[16] The question of the authenticity of the diary is not considered important enough to examine here; I will only remark that I have looked it over and don’t believe it. For example, as early as page 2 one is reading an essay on why a 13-year-old girl would start a diary, and then page 3 gives a short history of the Frank family and then quickly reviews the specific anti-Jewish measures that followed the German occupation in 1940. The rest of the book is in the same historical spirit.

The remainder of the Belsen concentration camp contained the usual assortment of inmates, and the fate of the camp has been seen. Bergen-Belsen never had a significant economic-industrial aspect, except for the diamond cutting.[17]


The major significance of Buchenwald was industrial; its satellite camps at Beuchow, Dora, Ellrich, Elsing, Gandersheim, and Halberstadt existed primarily for the sake of an underground aircraft factory, which employed the usual concentration camp and foreign labor in addition to regular German labor.[18] There were, however, two other aspects, the medical experiments conducted at the main camp Buchenwald and the activities of commandant Koch; these offer quite perfect illustrations on how the meanings of facts have been distorted in speaking of these camps. We are fortunate in having a book by Christopher Burney, a former inmate; this book not only indulges in some of this distortion but also offers us some facts or hints which enable us to see through the distortion. Burney’s book should illustrate to any reader the necessity, when reading personal experience literature of this sort, of sharply and rigorously distinguishing between the scenes the author actually claims to have witnessed or the claims he had read or heard, on the one hand, and the inferences he has drawn or pretended to draw on the other. The differences are often most stark. Describing commandant Koch:[19]

No cruelty was foreign to him, no single cell of his brain had not at some time or other contributed to the planning of new refinements of anguish and death for the rats in his trap.

Burney goes on to explain that, because Koch was a homosexual, Frau Ilse Koch used to make out with the prisoners, who were then sent to the crematorium, except that highly valued tattooed skin was saved for lampshades. At this point in Burney’s book things obviously look bad for him, especially if he has tattoos and Frau Koch finds him but, happily, all of that had happened before he arrived there in early 1944. Koch had been arrested in 1943 for embezzlement and was succeeded by Pister who was one of the mildest concentration camp commanders in history so that:

in the last year of its existence a casual observer who came to the camp and looked generally at it without probing its corners, would have seen little or no beatings, a large number of men doing no work, a much larger number working with a lethargy taught them by the Russians […], living blocks which were clean, kitchens with huge, horrifyingly modern soup-cookers and a hospital which would just pass muster at first glance.

The Koch arrest had, in fact, been part of the breaking of a ring of corruption which had spread through the German concentration camp system and had involved the murder of some prisoners who knew too much. It was exposed through the efforts of SS Judge Konrad Morgen. Koch was executed by the SS.[20]

The tattooed skin was undoubtedly due to the medical experiment role of Buchenwald. As remarked by Burney, when a Buchenwald inmate died, the camp doctors looked his body over and if they found something interesting they saved it.[21] It is fairly certain that the collection of medical specimens thus gathered was the source of the tattooed skin and the human head that turned up at the IMT as exhibits relating to people murdered at Buchenwald. What is probably the greater part of the collection is pictured in Figure 32. The head is normally pictured, without any explanation, in the company of some soap (Fig. 24), allegedly made from human bodies, which was submitted as evidence by the Russians who, when they learned there was to be a trial, evidently read up on what the Germans had been charged with in World War I.[22] By the time the IMT was done developing the fact about the tattooed skin found at Buchenwald, we had an official deposition:[23]

In 1939 all prisoners with tattooing on them were ordered to report to the dispensary. No one knew what the purpose was, but after the tattooed prisoners had been examined, the ones with the best and most artistic specimens were kept in the dispensary and then killed by injections. […] the desired pieces of tattooed skin were detached from the bodies and treated. The finished products were turned over to Koch’s wife, who had them fashioned into lampshades and other ornamental household articles. I myself saw such tattooed skins with various designs and legends on them, such as Hansel and Gretel which one prisoner had on his knee, and designs of ships from prisoners’ chests.

Frau Koch was convicted of such crimes at her trial before a U.S. military court, but in 1948, the American military governor, General Lucius Clay, reviewed her case and determined that, despite testimony produced at her trial, Frau Koch could not be related to the lampshades and other articles, which were discovered (i.e. planted) in the Buchenwald commandant’s residence when the camp was captured in 1945. For one thing, she had not lived there since her husband’s, and her own, arrest in 1943. Also her family journal, said to be bound in human skin and which was one of the major accusations against her, was never located and obviously never existed. Clay thus commuted her life sentence to four years imprisonment for ordinary sorts of brutalities.

What happened after the commutation provided one of the many episodes which, together with the 1948–49 revelations of what had transpired at the Dachau trials, exposed quite effectively the lawlessness that prevailed in the war crimes trials. Rabbi Wise and other influential people protested the commutation so strongly that there was a Senate investigation into the matter, which concluded that:

military authorities say they have been unable to find evidence of any other crime Ilse Koch committed on which she could be tried without violating the rule of double jeopardy. However […] because the trial conducted by our special military government court was based on charges that the various accused had mistreated non-German nationals, the German courts might well try Ilse Koch under their law for crimes committed against German nationals. […] Should the German people bring Ilse Koch to trial on such charges, the subcommittee is convinced that it would then be the duty of our military authorities to give complete cooperation to the German authorities.

This distinction between crimes against Germans and crimes against non-Germans was merely a bit of sophistry that was trotted out for the occasion. Not only had the U.S. war crimes courts always assumed jurisdiction in cases of alleged crimes against German Jews, but the distinction was irrelevant anyway, for Clay’s commutation of her sentence was based on a conclusion that she was not guilty of the major charges against her, which had to do with lampshades and the like, irrespective of the nationality of the alleged victims.

Clay did not change his position throughout the long public controversy concerning efforts to try Frau Koch a second time on essentially the same charges, a controversy which, according to The New York Times, rocked the United States and Europe. Clay was firm on his decision in the Ilse Koch case and explained that

examination of the record, based upon reports which I received from the lawyers, indicated that the most serious charges were based on hearsay and not on factual evidence. For that reason the sentence was commuted.

I hold no sympathy for Ilse Koch. She was a woman of depraved character and ill repute. She had done many things reprehensible and punishable, undoubtedly, under German law. We were not trying her for those things. We were trying her as a war criminal on specific charges.

Despite this empathic stand of the American military governor, pressures from the U.S. induced the German authorities to move against Frau Koch after she was released from American detention in October 1949. She was again tried on the familiar lampshade charges. Although the defense was able to show that the testimonies of two of the prosecution witnesses contradicted declarations that they had made in connection with earlier proceedings, thus forcing the German court to strike their testimonies from the record, Ilse Koch was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. She hanged herself in her cell in 1967.[24]

Burney reports some Belsen-like scenes at Buchenwald, but mainly among incoming prisoners evacuated from more eastern locations during the final chaotic weeks. So much for Buchenwald.[25]


Dachau was one of the oldest Nazi concentration camps, with an emphasis on Austrian political prisoners, Roman Catholic priests (detained for reasons that need not be examined here), and old and semi-employable people of all categories. The camp also had its group of ordinary criminals. Work was mainly at outside factories, but a herb plantation was being built up at the camp, and some prisoners worked at draining swamps.[26]

It is useful here to go into some detail on how, at the end of and immediately after the war, Dachau was misrepresented as an extermination camp with gas chambers. In showing that such events never took place at Dachau we are not, of course, contradicting the present story put forward by the bearers of the extermination legend, who do not claim Dachau in this connection, and build their story around the camps in Poland, with Auschwitz occupying the central position in this respect. The point of exploring these details regarding Dachau is that the credibility of the U.S. occupation is thereby demolished. The U.S. propaganda had claimed exterminations in the German camps and Dachau was the major camp taken over by the Americans (Buchenwald was later surrendered to the Russians). Thus, an effort was made to distort and misrepresent what had happened at the Dachau concentration camp. A recognition of the amazing crudeness and clumsiness of that effort, and the ludicrous nature of the evidence put forward will prime the reader quite suitably for our analysis of the central part of the hoax, the Auschwitz lie.

The conditions in the camps had forced the German government, in March 1945, to take the final step in reversal of its earlier policy of absolute exclusion of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from the concentration camps (existing conventions covered POWs, not concentration camp inmates). On March 29, 1945, SS General Kaltenbrunner authorized the ICRC to place one delegate in each camp for the purpose of distributing relief supplies, on the conditions that the delegate remained there until the end of the war.[27] The ICRC organized road transport for relief supplies (use of the railways was out of the question) but its effectiveness was to a degree influenced by the attitudes of individual concentration camp commanders; for example, the reception at Mauthausen on April 23–30 was at first negative. SS Colonel Ziereis claimed that he had not heard of the Kaltenbrunner order.[28]

At Dachau, the ICRC had gotten a relatively warm reception on April 27 (after some coolness on April 26), and a delegate was allowed to establish himself in the camp. By Sunday, April 29, it was found that most of the German officers, guards, and employees had fled, and the effective command of the camp had fallen to a certain SS Lieutenant Wickert who had similar intentions of leading a flight of the remaining guards. Because this raised many dangers, notably violence by prisoners against German civilians of the area and the spread of epidemics, the delegate talked Wickert out of this. They came to an agreement regarding surrender of the camp, which the ICRC delegate was to do his best to have respected. First, guards would remain in the towers to prevent the escape of prisoners.

Second, the soldiers not standing guard would assemble, unarmed, in one of the courtyards.

Third, the garrison would be allowed to withdraw to its own battle lines, after the transfer of the camp to the Americans.

The ICRC delegate then affixed a white towel to a broomstick and, taking a German officer with him, left the camp to hunt up some Americans. After a while they encountered an American motorized unit and the delegate presented himself to the American general (not named in the delegate’s report on these events) who, on learning the identities of his new guests, immediately asked that the delegate and the German officer accompany them for the purpose of taking press photos at the camp, particularly of a certain train which was full of dead bodies. Although the Red Cross delegate had been at the camp for two days, he had apparently been too busy to learn of this train while at the camp and learned of it from the general.

With its mission thus defined, the column set off for the camp. On the way, the delegate was able to ask a Major Every to communicate to the general the agreement for the transfer of the camp, but apparently this attempt to communicate with the general was not successful.

On arrival at the camp, they found that some Americans had already arrived, the German guards in the towers had been replaced and all the Germans had surrendered. The inmates were in great disorder and some were armed; shots were fired at SS guards and this resulted in some killed on both sides. The delegate was finally able to gain the attention of the general to present the plan for the transfer of the camp. The general assented to the plan, but the German prisoners were not allowed to leave anyway, and many of them suffered at the hands of inmates seeking vengeance. As many of the inmates were disarmed as possible, but this did not end the disorders. Some inmates embraced the American soldiers while others tore down barbed wire fences and escaped. Some shots were fired by the Americans over the heads of inmates, and an uneasy calm was finally reached by 10 p.m. There were, however, occasional shots fired during the following night. The following day, April 30, it was possible to pass out adequate food and on the next day, Tuesday May 1, some members of the ICRC legation arrived and, according to the delegate, they visited not only piles of corpses but equally the execution chamber, the gas chamber, the crematory ovens, etc.[29]

The preceding is a summary of the report of the Red Cross delegate. It contains no assertions similar to later assertions made independently by former inmates Johann M. Lenz and Nerin E. Gun, both of whom claim that the Americans, on arrival, started killing all SS guards in sight (unquestionably at least an exaggeration). Gun claims that this policy even extended to the dogs in the kennels, while Lenz claims that the general ordered a two hour bombardment of the defenseless town of Dachau (he was eventually dissuaded from this) in retaliation for the bodies which had been found lying around.[30] If there is any truth to these claims (in fact, this massacre of the wholesale execution of all SS members was even photographed by the U.S. Army),[31] the ICRC delegate made a fairly significant omission in his report.

It is very important to recognize what the Red Cross delegate refers to as the gas chamber in his report. The tone of the delegate’s report is tongue-in-cheek and contemptuous at several points, for it was written in defensive awareness of all the drivel that was being given mass circulation in the press. Thus, he remarks, in connection with the bodies found on the train at Dachau, that many of these men had been killed while the others were probably dead of hunger. Also, while the delegate is happy to pass along the names of le lieutenant Wickert and le major Every and others, he refuses to mention the name of the U.S. commander (apparently either Linden or Patek), who is referred to only as le general.

There were two types of rooms which were claimed as gas chambers by the U.S. propaganda after the camp was captured, and Gun reproduces the relevant photographs. Here we present Figs. 16 and 22. The former shows an ordinary shower which the U.S. propagandists had the audacity to claim was a gas chamber disguised as a shower. Fig. 19 shows the entrance to this Brausebad (shower bath).

The second type of room, which was claimed as a gas chamber, was indeed a gas chamber, the door of which is shown as Fig. 22. This door certainly appears to be genuine and not manufactured for the propaganda. To see what is involved, examine Fig. 13 (top). On the left one can perceive the very same door and near the door a heap of dirty prisoner clothing. That gas chamber was obviously a chamber for disinfesting clothing; such equipment was necessary and existed at all of the German concentration camps. The interior of the disinfestation room is shown in Fig. 6.

The building shown in Fig. 13 housed disinfestation chambers, the shower bath of Fig. 16, and the crematory of Fig. 17. This building has been maintained and is regularly visited by tourists. It is removed from the main part of the camp, located in a relatively isolated spot. It was perfectly logical to locate both the disinfestation chamber and the crematory in such a way that inmates did not come into frequent contact with such things (the former for reasons of health and the latter for reasons of morale). The shower was necessary, obviously, to decontaminate the people who worked in this building before they returned to the main part of the camp. I do not know whether this shower bath also serviced incoming prisoners, or if a separate shower existed for that purpose. As suggested by Fig. 16 and confirmed by the literature, it was almost always the shower bath, rather than the disinfestation chamber, which served the propaganda as a gas chamber.[32] The latter was probably considered too small to represent as a gas chamber, which had claimed countless victims.

Naturally, the war crimes trials produced witnesses who claimed gassings at Dachau (e.g. IMT witness Franz Blaha, who also claimed tattooed skin scenes as at Buchenwald[33]). Naturally, the people whose bodies had been found at the camp when it was captured, especially those on the train, were always represented as having been murdered.

The number of bodies on the train at Dachau was approximately 500. Finding dead people on trains in Germany toward the war’s end was not unusual even on ordinary passenger trains; in January 1945, 800 Germans, frozen to death, had been found on a train which had arrived in Berlin.[34] The German rail system was in utter chaos, and conditions in April 1945 are difficult to imagine, but some attempt should be made to see some of these corpse-laden trains in context. Some thought might also be given to the possible conditions of people as they started their journeys on these trains. It is entirely possible that the typical individual concentration camp commander, presented with what he considered insane orders to transfer N inmates to X camp, reasoned that putting the half dead on the train had the double merit of minimizing numbers of deaths and also getting some of the dying off his hands. However, such problems are not of essential or central interest here.

The truth about Dachau was not long in coming out, but did not receive wide publicity. The causes for the dead bodies, which were found at the camp when it was captured, were described in a 1948 publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. As the U.S. Army advanced into Germany, it encountered the sorts of conditions, which its medical services had anticipated and for which they had prepared counter-measures:[35]

Germany in the spring months of April and May was an astounding sight, a mixture of humanity traveling this way and that, homeless, often hungry and carrying typhus with them. […] The more territory that was uncovered, the greater was the number of reported cases; for Western Germany in the areas of the American advance was rather uniformly seeded with typhus. To be sure, there were heavily involved communities and others lightly affected. There were great accumulations of cases in the concentration and prison camps, and in nearby small communities.

As estimated 35,000–40,000 prisoners were found in [Dachau], living under conditions bad even for a German camp of this kind and worse than any other that came into American hands. Extreme filthiness, louse infestation, and overcrowding prevailed throughout the camp buildings. Several car-loads of human bodies were found packed in box cars in the railroad yards adjacent to the camp, the vestiges of a shipment of prisoners from camps further north who were transferred to Dachau in the late days of the war to escape the advancing United States troops.

The number of patients with typhus fever at the time the camp was first occupied will never be known. Days passed before a census of patients could be accomplished. Several hundreds were found in the prison hospital, but their number was small compared with the patients who continued to live with their comrades in the camp barracks, bed-ridden and unattended, lying in bunks 4 tiers high with 2 and sometimes 3 men to a narrow shelflike bed; the sick and the well; crowded beyond all description; reeking with filth and neglect — and everywhere the smell of death.

It is not surprising that Dachau had experienced catastrophes very similar to those at Belsen. Since the beginning of 1945, there had been an estimated 15,000 prisoner deaths from typhus, mostly in the final two months.[36]

The Americans brought the camp under control, and it served, as we have seen, as an American camp and center of war crimes trials. An American lawyer, Stephen S. Pinter, who was stationed there and evidently disapproved of what had been carried out there in the name of the United States, wrote in 1959:[37]

I was in Dachau for 17 months after the war, as a US War Department Attorney, and can state that there was no gas chamber at Dachau. What was shown to visitors and sightseers there and erroneously described as a gas chamber, was a crematory. Nor was there a gas chamber in any of the other concentration camps in Germany. We were told that there was a gas chamber at Auschwitz, but since that was in the Russian zone of occupation, we were not permitted to investigate, since the Russians would not permit it.

[…] uses the old propaganda myth that millions of Jews were killed by the national socialists. From what I was able to determine during six postwar years in Germany and Austria, there were a number of Jews killed, but the figure of a million was certainly never reached. I interviewed thousands of Jews, former inmates of concentration camps in Germany and Austria, and consider myself as well qualified as any man on this subject.

In 1960, the Institut für Zeitgeschichte of Munich, the paragon of hostility and resistance to Nazism, declared:[38]

The gas chamber in Dachau was never completed and put into operation […] The mass extermination of Jews by gassing started in 1941/1942, and took place […] with the aid of installations technically designed for this purpose, above all in occupied Polish territory [but nowhere in the Old Reich …].

This is essentially the Dachau myth as it stood in the summer of 1973: the information given the visiting tourist at Dachau correctly identified the disinfestation room as such, without any attempt to represent it as a gas chamber for exterminating people. In regard to the shower bath the leaflet explained that

This gas chamber, camouflaged as a shower room, was not used. The prisoners selected for gassing were transported from Dachau to the Hartheim Castle, near Linz (Austria) or to other camps.

So much for Dachau, a close examination of which was necessary in order to evaluate the general credibility of the U.S. propaganda.[39]

The Industrial Role of Auschwitz

The camps at Auschwitz were, of course, part of the same concentration camp system as the camps we have just discussed. However, the operations referred to with the term Auschwitz were really, in many ways, in a class by themselves. This is so much the case that, in order to see the role of Auschwitz clearly, it is necessary to go back considerably in time. It is also necessary, unfortunately, to indulge in a certain amount of discussion that may seem excessively technical at first.

The principal cause of the German defeat in World War I in 1918 had been shortages brought about, chiefly, by the British blockade. Shortages of such things as oil and rubber had been crippling the Army, and near starvation conditions in Germany had made the internal political situation unpredictable and unstable. Germany capitulated, a victim of, among other things, the twentieth century’s first energy crisis.

The extreme vulnerability of Germany in respect of raw materials had, of course, been realized by the German chemical industry during the war, and after the war the popularity of the concept of autarky, non-reliance on imports or foreign aid, was partially based on this consideration. The only raw materials that concern us here are oil and rubber, of which there was essentially none in Germany. In Europe, only Romania had significant oil resources, and there was no natural rubber anywhere in Europe. There were, however, huge sources of coal in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

The great German chemicals company, I. G. Farben, was in 1918 a collection of six smaller companies, which later combined in 1925 to form Farben. The principal predecessor company, Badische Anilin und Soda Fabrik (BASF) of Ludwigshafen-am-Rhein had, starting early in World War I, been working on processes for producing synthetic oil and synthetic rubber from coal. These investigations continued after the formation of Farben and also after the rise of Hitler in 1933. The Nazi government soon adopted a policy of subsidizing these autarky-oriented developments.[40] Thus, on account of government encouragement, the real need for the synthetics, and the general German scientific-technological pre-eminence of the time, especially in chemistry and chemical engineering, Germany was substantially ahead of the rest of the world in these areas.

Synthetic oil was by far the easier of the two problems. Coal is mainly carbon; the general principle is that coal treated with hydrogen gas at high pressure and temperature (hydrogenation) resulted in oil. The usual range of chemical products could be made from this oil: dyes, explosives, drugs, etc. Another state of hydrogenation yielded gasoline. The idea was basically simple, although the process was inherently expensive, and most research consisted in a search for the most effective catalysts. During World War II, there were many synthetic oil plants in and around Germany; they produced about 75 percent of the oil available to the Germans; the rest came mainly from Romania.[41]

Synthetic rubber was a different matter; the technical problems in developing a sufficiently economic synthetic rubber suitable for tires were most severe and were not really resolved until approximately the beginning of the war.

The basic steps in making rubber are first making long chains of molecules of some sort, polymerization, and then causing these chains to cross-stitch — to join each other at various points — vulcanization. One needed a molecule congenial to polymerization and vulcanization, and it was found that butadiene was particularly suitable. In the late twenties, it had been found that sodium was an excellent catalyst for polymerization of the butadiene, and consequently the synthetic rubber that was being made from butadiene with sodium (Na) as catalyst was called Buna rubber. The sodium had been dropped by 1935, but the term Buna was retained. By replacing 25 per cent of the butadiene with styrene, Buna-S rubber, the type particularly suited for tires, was obtained.[42]

The earliest serious German Buna-S plant, and the largest, was the Schkopau plant, started in 1937 and completed in 1939. It had a capacity of 6,000 tons per month. A second plant was started at Hüls in 1938 and was in operation in August 1940; its capacity was 4,000 tons per month. A third plant was started in January 1941 at Ludwigshafen, Farben research headquarters, and it was producing Buna in March 1943; its capacity was 2,500 tons per month. The fourth, at Auschwitz, was begun in 1941 and was designed for a capacity of 3,000 tons per month.

During all this plant construction, research on new processes continued, and the differences in the processes used in the four plants reflected this. All started from coal, but at Schkopau the butadiene was produced via a classical calcium carbide-acetylene-butadiene sequence; at Hüls the carbide state was replaced by one involving hydrocarbon gases. Ludwigshafen reverted to the classical sequence, but the superior Reppe process was introduced for the acetylene-butadiene state. The Buna plant at Auschwitz also used a version of the classical sequence.[43]

The reason for the appearance of Auschwitz in this context is very simple: Auschwitz was a huge industrial operation.

When Germany annexed a large part of Poland after the partitioning of Poland in 1939 by Germany and Russia, it came into the possession of the great coal fields of Polish Upper Silesia. It was naturally decided to exploit this, and the possibilities for a hydrogenation and Buna plant were examined. It was found that the little town of Oświęcim (population 13,000), translated into German as Auschwitz (Auschwitz had been a duchy of the Habsburg Empire before World War I), was ideally located, because the three rivers that joined there could provide the necessary water, while a fourth river for carrying off the waste was nearby. In addition, Auschwitz was on the southern border of the Silesian coal fields, the Kattowitz (Katowice) mining region of Poland.[44]

In early 1941, it was decided to build a hydrogenation and a Buna plant at Auschwitz employing both free and prisoner labor. By pure chance, there was already near the town a partisan POW camp holding 7,000 prisoners (it had formerly been a Polish artillery barracks); this camp became the nucleus for expansion via its own enlargement and also the construction of additional camps. It was quickly transformed into, and remained to the last, a camp for political prisoner-workers; it is usually referred to as Auschwitz I. The terms main camp, Hauptlager, and Stammlager are also sometimes used.[45]

Sometime in 1941, work had begun on a second camp, Auschwitz II, generally referred to as Birkenau (German for birch meadow). It was one to one and a half miles northwest of Auschwitz I and was initially referred to as a POW camp. Part of it was completed by April 1942; Russian POW labor was used for constructing the camp. Its functions will be examined at length.

Some 4,000 Jews were moved out of the town to another town to make room for free labor attached to the industries. On November 16, 1941, it was decided to build a third camp, generally referred to as Monowitz, three miles east of the town and close to the Farben plant, for quartering labor working on and in the plant. Russian POW’s were again used for constructing the camp.[46] The relative locations of the three camps are shown in Fig. 5.[47]

There was also a large number of smaller camps in the outlying region, most of them within a radius of 25 miles. These outer camps, of which Raisko and Harmense were two relatively close-in examples, were administered by the Auschwitz camp administration, and the number has been variously given as 13 to 39, depending upon what is considered a single camp.[48] The smaller or outer camps were mainly for those who worked at the five blast furnaces or five coal mines. Monowitz and the collection of all outer camps taken together are sometimes referred to a Auschwitz III. The collection of all camps, Auschwitz I, Birkenau (Auschwitz II) and Auschwitz III, together with the industries which employed the inmates, is usually what is referred to under the blanket term Auschwitz.[49]

The prisoner population of Auschwitz II was nothing unusual except that there was a significant number of British POWs.[50] The NMT judgment was that the use of British POWs was not contrary to the Geneva Convention, because the Buna factory had an ultimate peaceful purpose.[51] The Red Cross apparently concurred because, although it was specifically aware of this situation, it did not mention the employment of British POWs in its later report on the problems it had encountered during the war in respect to the use of POWs for war-related work.[52]

Typical camp strengths were 20,000 for Auschwitz I, 35,000 for Birkenau (30 to 60 percent women) and 15,000 for Auschwitz III. By a wide margin, Auschwitz was the largest complex of concentration camps in the German system; in August 1943, the second largest was Sachsenhausen with a population of 26,500.[53] There were also many free laborers working and living in the area. For example, less than thirty per cent of the workers at the Farben plant were in the prisoner category; more that half were free foreign workers who had enlisted voluntarily for labor and the remaining approximate twenty per cent were ordinary German employees.[54]

Auschwitz I was the administrative center for all SS functions at Auschwitz. These SS functions included the guarding, feeding, clothing, housing, recreation, and disciplining of the prisoners, and also their medical services. The working hours at Auschwitz were those standard for the German concentration camps: eleven hours per day, six days a week, with extra work on Sunday mornings in emergencies.[55] At Auschwitz there were divers recreational activities: concerts, cabaret performers, movies and athletic contests. There was even a brothel for the prisoners, staffed by professionals recruited for the purpose.[56] Medical services receive further comment later on.

The providing of such extensive services naturally meant that companies using the labor of the prisoners rented them from the SS; a typical rate seems to have been RM 4.00-RM 6.00 ($1.00-$1.50) per day and up.[57] Thus, the prisoners were at the basis of Himmler’s bureaucratic and economic empire, and accordingly this resource, together with the supporting functions of feeding, clothing, etc. were jealously guarded. Nevertheless, Farben had been big enough to get a special arrangement for those at Monowitz; it was granted full authority for the care of the prisoners there and consequently the payments to the SS were reduced. This led to the expected scraps between the SS and Farben. The SS complained of beatings and other mistreatment such as unsanitary conditions at the Monowitz hospital. Also, one-fifth of the people who had been registered at this hospital were discharged by being sent to Birkenau, at which time the Farben appropriations for their care immediately ceased and they became the responsibility of the SS which, already wounded by not being accorded its customary rights in regard to employable prisoners, was incensed at receiving in return only the unemployable from Monowitz. The SS therefore demanded that the Monowitz hospital, which had only 300 beds, be enlarged, but the reply to this, of course, was that if they aren’t strong enough to work, they don’t belong on the factory grounds.[58]

Birkenau, like Auschwitz I, had a responsibility of supplying labor for Farben and for sub-contractors to Farben. It also supplied labor for other enterprises such as the Krupp fuse plant and the Siemens electrical factory. In addition, inmates worked at clearing demolished structures, draining the marshy land, road construction, operating an establishment for the cultivation of special plants (Raisko), building and operating a model farm (Harmense), clothing manufacture, etc.[59] Birkenau had other functions, as will be seen. It will be particularly necessary to examine the claim that at Birkenau a program of mass killings of Jews via gas chambers was in operation, the Jews having been transported to Auschwitz primarily for this purpose.[60]

The rough figures given above for camp populations are only illustrative; the Birkenau figure actually varied a great deal, and in addition, the Birkenau camp was never completed. The projected capacity of Birkenau seems to have been 200,000 prisoners, while Auschwitz I expanded to a capacity of about 30,000 and then stabilized.[61] Thus, on the basis of seniority and also on account of quartering the Auschwitz SS administrative offices, Auschwitz I was indeed the main camp, but Birkenau, designed for the specific requirements of the Auschwitz operations, was clearly intended as the principal camp in terms of inmate accommodating functions.

While the Auschwitz-Kattowitz region was ideal from a technical point of view, it was also wretched from a human point of view. The ground was extremely flat with no means of draining away water in many places; it was dotted with stagnant ponds which poisoned the air and caused the area to be constantly muddy. Malaria and typhus were natural, not wartime-created, dangers in this region; the war conditions greatly aggravated matters. It is said that motor cars were disinfected after each journey carrying prisoners or their clothing.[62]

After 1942, the hydrogenation plant at Auschwitz produced oil and gasoline and other chemicals, but by the time the camp was evacuated in January 1945, it had not produced any Buna; it was only at the point of producing acetaldehyde from acetylene.[63] This relative slowness in plant construction was no doubt due to the initially virgin character of the area, the use of prisoner labor, and the bad health of many prisoners; the latter had further implications, which will be seen later in proper context.

I do not know whether the Auschwitz Buna plant was to have been essentially the same as the Ludwigshafen plant, an improved version of the latter, or a new generation in Buna plant construction. In any case, if it had been finished, there would have been no more advanced Buna rubber plant in the world at the time.

[1] Veale, 133–136; Martin, 121.
[2] Reitlinger, 122, 402; Hilberg (1961), 570–571; DuBois, 127.
[3] Burney, 9; Buber, 188; Lenz, 31; Cohen, 120–122.
[4] Sington, 117f.
[5] Phillips, 152.
[6] Sington, 48.
[7] Phillips, 17.
[8] Hilberg (1961), 561–564; Reitlinger, 94, 147–150, 154.
[9] Cohen, 26–28.
[10] Red Cross (1948), vol. 1, 546–547.
[11] 1469-PS and NO-1990 in NMT, vol. 5, 382, 389.
[12] Cohen, xiii.
[13] Aronéanu, 212.
[14] 1469-PS in NMT, vol. 5, 382.
[15] Reitlinger, 364f., 406; Hilberg (1961), 377–379, 632f.
[16] A. Frank, 285.
[17] Regarding Belsen see in general Barton and Weber (1995).
[18] Aronéanu, 207, 213, 214, 217, 220.
[19] Burney, 10–14.
[20] Hoehne, 383–387 (434–436 in paperback).
[21] Burney, 10.
[22] 3420-PS; 3422-PS. For pictures see, e.g., Andrus, photographs. A macabre collection of specimens from Buchenwald is also pictured in Pélissier, 640 pp.
[23] 3421-PS; IMT, vol. 3, 515; quoted Shirer (1960), 984.
[24] The New York Times (Sep. 24, 1948), 3; (Oct. 1, 1948), 11; (Oct. 8, 1948), 10; (Oct. 22, 1948), 5; (Dec. 27, 1948), 1, 12; (Dec. 20, 1950), 15; Jan. 16, 1951), 1; (Sep. 3, 1967), 1; cf. also A.L. Smith.
[25] Burney, 106–109; cf. in general Weber (1986).
[26] Lenz, 32, 42, 78; 1063-PS.
[27] Red Cross (1948), vol. 1, 620; vol. 3, 83, 184; Red Cross (1947), 82–84.
[28] Red Cross (1947), 134–137.
[29] Red Cross (1947), 144–146, 149–152.
[30] Lenz, 270; Gun, 63–64.
[31] Editor’s note: This massacre was photographed by the U.S. troops, see Fig. 21, bottom right. Compare also Buechner; see also Dachauer Hefte, issue 1 (1985): Die Befreiung.
[32] M. J. Smith, 94f.
[33] IMT, vol. 5, 167–173; Rassinier (1962), 78.
[34] Burney, 107; Red Cross (1947), 151.
[35] Gordon, 23–25.
[36] Red Cross (1947), 150.
[37] Letter by Pinter in Catholic weekly Our Sunday Visitor (Jun. 14, 1959), 15; cf. Schwensen.
[38] Die Zeit (Engl. Edition, Aug. 26, 1960), 14 (letter by M. Broszat); Rassinier (1962), 79. Rassinier refers to the German edition of Die Zeit (Aug. 19, 1960).
[39] Editor’s remark: Around the turn of the millenium the Dachau Museum made an about-face and has claimed ever since that some homicidal gassing did occur in this shower room; cf. Schwertfeger.
[40] Howard, 3, 11–22, 44, 60–62; NMT, vol. 7, 79–80.
[41] Craven, 172.
[42] Howard, 35–37.
[43] Dunbrook, 50; Naunton, 107.
[44] DuBois, 154–155.
[45] Reitlinger, 110, 128; NO-034 in NMT, vol. 5, 356–358.
[46] Reitlinger, 114–115; DuBois, 156.
[47] Central Commission, Figs. 2, 4; Langbein, 929.
[48] The Auschwitz Museum currently gives a number of more than 40; cf.
[49] Central Commission, 30; Reitlinger, 492; NO-021 in NMT, vol. 5, 385.
[50] DuBois, 217–218, 223–227; Reitlinger, 115.
[51] NMT, vol. 8, 1183–1184.
[52] Red Cross (1947), 92; Red Cross (1948), vol. 1, 546–551.
[53] Central Commission, 31; Reitlinger, 123, 492; 1469-PS and NO-021 in NMT, vol. 5, 382, 385.
[54] NI-11412-A in NMT, vol. 8, 311–312.
[55] NO-1290 in NMT, vol. 5, 371.
[56] Cohen, 180; Christophersen, 34. See also the discussion of the Dachau brothel in Gun, 38–40.
[57] NMT, vol. 9, 121; Central Commission, 37.
[58] DuBois, 164, 220–224.
[59] DuBois, 141; NMT, vol. 6, 207, 233; NMT, vol. 9, 120; US-WRB (1944), pt. I, 1–2; Christophersen, 23–25.
[60] Reitlinger, 115, 157; Hilberg (1961), 565, 574.
[61] Central Commission, 31.
[62] Central Commission, 27–29; DuBois, 130; Friedman, 33.
[63] DuBois, 341; Naunton, 107; Bebb & Wakefield, 945.